On ViewThe Journal Gallery
September 15 – November 1, 2015
For Graham Collins’s second solo exhibition at the Journal Gallery, several different series of works are combined, including large-scale painted objects that effectively reconfigure the gallery’s main space. These wall-based pieces are made on salvaged, above-ground swimming pool structures. The degree to which they leave the wall and occupy the viewer’s space is equivalent to the depth that the pool would presumably have had. Their sheer physicality, though urban-garden in source, imposes an industrial, architectural presence, reshaping the rectangular gallery. In not being fabricated for use as paintings, these found structures—now giant painted assemblages—have a pathos and contingency missing from, say, the formalism of Frank Stella’s room-sized, painted metal constructions, soon to be on view in his Whitney retrospective.
Evoque (2015) looms like the tarp-covered entrance to a giant piece of machinery. The nearly circular structure is complete, formed by sections of aluminum that interlock. The interior vinyl, designed to take water, is worked over with both oil and acrylic paint and silicone polyurethane. Ridgeline (2015) is a collapsed fragment of one of these pools, an aluminum section resting on the floor, and the vinyl attached to and above it, is wired to the wall. The smeared and wiped addition of paint stays close to the ad hoc, DIY feel—so not usurping the sense that these objects have prior history, and are in no way idealized objects—even when transferred to an art gallery. Avalanche (2015) sees the same pool structure opened in a long curve along a single wall. The title is apposite, a great deal of visual momentum spills along its length. The opening up of the paintings’ frame and the pulled and/or suspended nature of the painted vinyl, recall the explorations of painters Al Loving and Joe Overstreet in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
As with many, if not all, of Graham Collins’s works the framing device is significant and an incorporated part of any particular piece. In his large-scale works the frame as a device is conspicuous as either a containing found object, or being broken, and hence allowing for an expanded field of varying shape and dimension. They may be large, but they are anything but monumental, undermining the idea of scale-oriented dominance through our knowledge of their backyard suburban ubiquity. A number of what appear to be display cases are placed at the outer limits of the gallery; these much smaller pieces offer a very different experience of framing and the concept of presentation. An accumulation of offcuts and general left-over workshop materials are flocked to form a homogenized irregular base. Reproductions of found objects are superimposed over this. The results are framed under glass, each frame bearing a different decorative finish—gold and aluminum leaf, low-voc paints, and beeswax are all used.
The results assail expectations of presentation; they are neither exploiting formal play as Cordy Ryman might do nor establishing indexical surrealistic vitrines as Joseph Cornell did so effectively. In previous exhibitions Collins has presented monochrome paintings that were variously obscured under glass that had been layered with window tint, applied imperfectly to expose air trapped in and creasing of this material. The painting would be visible under the glass, through slits, where the window tint didn’t meet. The reflections that the glass produced involved also the viewer moving past the work and the space through space of the gallery. (The precedent is, of course, Gerhard Richter’s gray monochrome paintings on glass). Here, Collins has widened the range and deepened the territory of his borderland, where high art types—monochrome and gestural painting, the found object and sculptural assemblage—meet the canon of home improvements, barely disguised, and are all the more effective for it. The lack of transformation into art material makes for a surprising directness.
- CORRECTION: The October 2015 print edition of the Rail incorrectly stated that Frank Stella's upcoming retrospective will be at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. The restrospective will be at the Whitney Museum of American Art.